Book Pregnant is Kicking Ass Right Now

I belong to an online community—or, “secret group” as Facebook calls us—of thirty debut authors. We talk shop, ask each other for advice, listen to each other’s complaints and worries with support and encouragement, basically we help each other through the process of publishing a book after it’s been sold. There are no manuals or guides for this part of being a writer, and publishing is a murky and complicated business once you’re on the other side. We have banded together as people bonded by this uncommon experience. We’re called Book Pregnant, and right now we are kicking ass.

This is just good news—and only the good news that is public and okay to post—from the past few days!! Over the past few months we’ve had members hit the NYT bestseller list, do NPR and other radio interviews, get reviews in countless prestigious magazines, newspapers, websites, and trade journals, appear on hundreds of blogs, receive blurbs from big-name authors, release book trailers, speak at TEDx, give dozens of readings at universities, indie bookstores, and libraries, win literary contests, sell second books, and so much more. We are full of powerhouse talents and I’m so pleased and honored to be part of this tribe.

Find out more about Book Pregnant writers and our books, and check out our blog, the way we pass some of the knowledge we’ve gained from each other along to you.

Are you part of a writing tribe?

I Won! (And Other Good News)

Remember when I posted about the Santa Barbara Writers Conference best opening contest? I said you couldn’t win if you didn’t try, so I tried, and I won! It was a totally unexpected gift—a full scholarship to a week of workshops and panels across the street from the beach. I was pretty proud of my sentence, too:

We compare scars like war veterans, replay our history by the marks in our skin. At night, quietly so Mom can’t hear, we trace the raised flesh road maps of our lives and whisper our stories into the dark.

I’m here now and so far it’s been great. I’ve walked along this gorgeous beach path (my phone camera doesn’t do it justice) every day. I saw a pod of a dozen or so dolphins, including a baby, swimming just off shore, pelicans dive bombing for dinner, and lots of little crabs. It’s even been warm enough to walk barefoot on the sand and in the surf. Plus, you know, all the great writing stuff: meeting other writers, hanging out with a fellow Book Pregnant member, listening to smart talks, including a keynote from Dorothy Allison, my hero, and soaking up the community of people all focusing on the the thing I’ve chosen to do with my life. It’s inspiring, really. And I think I might want to live in Santa Barbara.

I wanted to share with you, too, the places Hand Me Down and I have appeared in the last few weeks.

  • Woman Around Town interviewed me and then wrote this wonderful article, Hand Me Down: Melanie Thorne’s Novel of Survival and Triumph about me and the book and the intersection of fiction and reality. “As a novel, the story is shocking enough, more so when we learn that 80 percent of what happens in Hand Me Down is autobiographical.”
  • On Campaign for the American Reader, I talk about two books I loved recently and why: The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith, (whose blog I also love), and the newest Sookie Stackhouse book, Deadlocked, by Charlaine Harris.
  • Jennifer Weiner, amazing author and women’s lit champion, retweeted two of my tweets to her forty-something-thousand followers, said she couldn’t wait to read Hand Me Down, and is now following me!
  • The wonderful Amy Sue Nathan, author of the soon-to-be-published novel, The Glass Wives, interviewed me for her blog, Women’s Fiction Writers. She asked great questions about truth in fiction and the label of women’s fiction and I had a lot of fun.
  • Curled Up with a Good Book posted a great review. “Clearly, this young protagonist is a survivor who has not been destroyed by her experiences.”
  • Hand Me Down was featured on School Library Journal as a pick for their Adult Books 4 Teens list.
  • @FuzzyBlackDog, a lovely reader I don’t know, tweeted this: Just finished “Hand Me Down.” Wow. Heart wrenching, chest clenching, make you squirm in your chair novel. Well done.
  • Booking Mama posted a review in which she said many good things, including: “I appreciated the author’s storytelling abilities as well as her prose, but it was the character development of Liz that really stood out to me. I thought Ms. Thorne did a wonderful job of creating a realistic and likable teen, and it was her honest voice that really captured my heart.”
  • Read part of page 69 of Hand Me Down on The Page 69 Test blog and my comments about how it illustrates some of the themes in the book, particularly the bond between the two sisters in the novel.

Phew. Am I a lucky author or what? I’m so honored to have been talked about and to, and I love all the attention my book baby is getting out there in the world. What’s more, this doesn’t even include all the reader emails I’ve gotten, the responses from the wonderful women at the book club I visited, or my feelings about all of it, which I’m not sure I could articulate just yet.

I have to get up in the morning so I can go to another wonderful workshop, so I’ll leave you with all of this fantastic news and my cup of gratitude spilling all over the place. What’s even better than the list above? I’m pretty sure it’s incomplete. There’s so much good news I can’t remember it all. But I’m holding it, carrying it in my chest so I can linger over the joy of it all later. Thank you.

News in Brief

Wow. The last few days have flown by. Hand Me Down has been out in the world for four days and so far, so good. There are still a million things I need to do, but I have some quick, exciting highlights to share with you.

The review in People magazine was great. They gave it 3.5/4 stars and called it a “sad and compelling read.” My name is in People!

A friend told me she went to a Barnes & Noble in Salt Lake City and asked for my book. They had sold out. The clerk called all 3 other B&N’s in the area and they were all sold out too!

My first reading and signing went well, despite my nerves. My hometown bookstore, Copperfield’s, is so great. I even got to choose a book as a gift from them at the end of the night! The wonderful employees put the People review up next to my book on the shelf, and this was the first place I got to see my baby smiling back at me from her new home with all the other books.

We went to Book Passage in Corte Madera, one of the premier bookstores in the Bay Area, and found my book in three places! On two different new arrival tables and a shelf. Next to Joyce Carol Oates. While I was taking a million photos (more of which I will post later) I was asked if I needed help by a very nice sales girl named Jessica. I pointed at Hand Me Down, told her it was my book. She said she was excited to read it. She said, “And I’m not just saying that.” In fact, she told me, she’d been waiting for a while because all the advance copies of it kept being taken by employees to be read. How cool is that?

John Lescroart gave Hand Me Down this great recommendation, and Jennifer Chiaverini called it “compelling, heart wrenching, and ultimately redemptive.” She is offering a free signed copy of one of her bestselling Elm Creek Quilts novels if you buy a copy of my book in a bookstore. Details on her Facebook page.

As of right now, Hand Me Down is holding steady at #5 on Amazon’s Hot New Literary Fiction list. Yesterday it was at #3. It’s been in Amazon’s Literary Fiction Kindle bestseller list since Friday, in the top 50, getting up to #29.

On Friday and Saturday, the book was #3 or #4 on the Trending Nook Book list on B&N.

And, maybe most wonderful, is all the support I’ve gotten from friends and family, old coworkers and students. Emails, Facebook and Twitter messages and posts, calls, even flowers. People congratulating me, telling me they knew I would make it, or that they ordered their copy, or got their copy, or are planning to buy it when they come to see me read. People saying they saw my review in People or the AP review that was everywhere last week; that they saw Hand Me Down in a store; that they just finished reading and they loved it.

I’ve probably forgotten something—I’m finding that my brain is struggling to hold in all this new stimuli—and I can’t tell you exactly how I’m feeling yet since my emotions are still settling, but the one big thing I am aware of now, is gratitude.

Thank you for all of your kind words about my book. Thank you for the messages, the posts, the shout-outs and shares, and referrals. Thank you for buying a copy. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t say it enough.

Bursting at the Seams

I’ve been waiting to post here until I could take the time to write something poignant and meaningful, offer some deep reflections on the days before my book is born into the world for real. But, man, releasing a book requires hustle. So maybe—hopefully—that post is on its way, but this is not it.

In this post I want to tell you how full I feel. Stuffed, actually, bursting at the seams with news, with gratitude, with pride. I feel nervous, happy, scared, loved…this process has been a wild ride, that’s for sure. And it’s only going to get wilder.

More musings to come, but for now, let me share with you some of the latest news about Hand Me Down.

  • People Magazine gave the book 3.5/4 stars! They called it a “compelling read.” Look for the review it in the April 23rd issue, on sale today.
  • ML Johnson at the Associated Press wrote this wonderful review of Hand Me Down, which was then picked up by dozens of news outlets, including the Huffington Post and the Washington Post! “Melanie Thorne’s debut novel is raw with emotion.”
  • Last Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle included the first line of Hand Me Down in their book section of the paper and online. W’s mom called all excited to see that I’d shown up in her Sunday paper.
  • Cindy Wolfe Boynton at Book Page wrote a thoughtful review, Reality Sparks Affecting Debut” that made my day. She called the book “impossible to put down” and said, “Readers vividly see and experience right along with Liz, thanks to Thorne’s sharp storytelling.” It was included in this special edition of Book Page. Plus, she interviewed me for a piece that is going to run in the Salt Lake City Tribune.
  • Daily Candy featured my book in their “Spring Ink” section, “15 Books to Read While the Trees Blossom.” The other books in this list look really interesting, too!
  • Hand Me Down made it onto Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Fiction” list for April.
  • Confessions of a Vi3tbabe posted a great review this week. “A heartfelt story that I couldn’t put down…Hand Me Down is truly a moving and empowering story, one I think everyone should read.”
  • Candace’s Book Blog also posted a wonderful review. “This book was pretty fantastic. I thought it would be one I’d only read just a little at a time…but the second day I picked it up I ended up reading the whole thing. It sucked me in and I totally and completely ached for Liz and her horrible horrible situation.”
  • And finally, I got a tiny mention in the Press Democrat in an article about books set in Sonoma County along with fellow Dutton authors Sere Prince Halverson and Jennifer Chiaverini. And, this reporter may do a feature on just me a little later!

See, that was a lot of news! Not to mention the Goodreads reviews—mostly great—my launch event tomorrow night at Copperfield’s, my event with Pam Houston at the Booksmith in SF next week, my other upcoming events, my live interview on Capital Public Radio in Sacramento on May 1st, and a forthcoming Q&A in the East Bay Express. Phew!

I’m so happy for all the attention my labor of love is getting, and I really appreciate all the support from my friends and other authors and booksellers and people I don’t know who took the time to write something kind about my book. Thank you, thank you.

Hand Me Down’s Starred Kirkus Review!

Things have been crazy in my currently very narrow my-book-is-about-to-be-published world. I continue to be surprised by all of the things that go into launching a book, and by how much work it is. I’ve been told that for the next four months I will be consumed with the business of releasing my baby into the world and giving her the proper support so she can thrive. Just four weeks and two days until publication! (Not that I’m counting down or anything.)

I know it seems contradictory, but as I was writing Hand Me Down, I was hoping to someday publish it but not really processing the fact that publication would lead to people actually reading it. Now that they are and reviews are coming in, I’m constantly nervous. As I’ve mentioned, waiting for reviews is unpleasant. There’s so much subjectivity in reviewing, even if the initial reviews are good, there is always the chance that the next person will hate it.

So when a reviewer really gets the book, it’s a gift. It’s even better if that reviewer writes for Kirkus Reviews, the “world’s toughest book critics,” who have a reputation for being downright mean. And if that reviewer loves the book enough to give it a star, then for a few minutes or days the doubts and fears and what-if voices quiet down and you remember what it is to love to read and how amazing it is to connect to a book and why you started writing in the first place and, well, this author feels truly grateful.

See the star next to the title on the Kirkus Reviews website, but unless you subscribe, you can’t read the whole review there. Lucky for you, I can share it with you here for free!

First-time author Thorne wears her heart on her sleeve in this semi-autobiographical tale about a 14-year-old who juggles equal amounts of hope and despair in her chaotic daily life.

Liz and younger sister Jaime have learned they can only count on one another after their mom, Linda, marries a convicted sex offender. Terrance, who parades around the small apartment half-dressed and leers at Liz, makes it clear that if she complains he’ll take it out on her sister. But when Terrance’s parole officer receives a tip that the ex-con is in violation of parole by living with the two girls, their mom’s solution is to farm the girls out to other family members. Jaime moves in with their dad, a lying drunk who mercilessly beat Linda during their marriage, while Liz is farmed out to Terrance’s brother, Gary, and his wife. Liz worries she’s missing too much school and is haunted by the fear that their father will repeat history and drive drunk with Jaime in tow. Liz continues to narrate her journey with prose that vibrates with intelligence and passion. Although she is just beginning her freshman year of high school, Liz manages to carry around with her a heavy burden of responsibility for her sister. Thorne writes Liz as world-weary and mature in ways children should not have to be. From the mother who willingly throws over her children for the promise of marriage to a man who uses her, to the well-meaning Aunt Deborah, who offers Liz a home she cannot accept, Thorne populates her pages with characters who are fascinating and sharply drawn.

Failed by the adults in her life and forced to be the grown-up when she should be experiencing first dates and football games, Liz is a wise, wry, wonderful heroine.

Continue reading

Sacramento Event Booked!

I grew up in Sacramento, and part of Hand Me Down takes place in Sacramento, so I’m extra excited to share this event with you: Tuesday, May 1st, at 7 pm I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble in Arden Fair Mall. I hope to see lots and lots of familiar faces at this one!

Store Image

This is the Barnes & Noble I used to drive to at ten o’clock on Friday nights to get my book fix for the weekend. I bought journals that I filled with poems and teenage angst. Sometimes I wandered through the rows and rows of shelves for hours, making lists in my head of all the books I wanted and then narrowing it down until I had a number I could afford. I spent what most college kids spent on booze on piles of novels that I still have.

Other authors have told me that at their hometown events they’ve seen past teachers, classmates, neighbors, even dentists or hairstylists, or surprising other blasts from the past and I can’t wait to see who shows up here, in my hometown. If we were friends or acquaintances, if we worked together or went to the same school, if we met in softball or choir or at a show or through an ex-boyfriend, if we knew each other at all, I hope you’ll come say hello!

If we don’t know each other yet, come introduce yourself! I’m friendly. My students often write “approachable” in their evaluations.

The point is, come celebrate my first event in the city where I was born and (mostly) raised. I’m sure to be at my best with the home court advantage and all.

Event with Pam Houston Booked!

I’m so excited to share this most recently confirmed event with you: a reading with Pam Houston! As I mentioned before, Pam is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I am honestly so thrilled for her new book, Contents May have Shifted, which comes out  in early February.

In addition to being an amazing writer, Pam is also a kind and generous person and one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. I was lucky enough to work with her at UC Davis for several years and she was the chair of my graduate thesis committee, which advised me on the very first draft of Hand Me Down, though it was originally titled something less interesting that no one liked.

Anyway, a dream event has been scheduled with Pam at the Booksmith in San Francisco for April 18th, and I hope you can make it! Maybe I’ll tell the story of how I met Pam as an undergrad before I’d read any of her books and said something stupid and naive that she was gracious enough not to laugh at. Then I read Waltzing the Cat and was tongue-tied around her for years like she was a rock star, and in my world, she totally is.

Check out Pam’s site for more of her events, and look for an events tab on my site coming soon!

Book Launch Event Confirmed!

Yay! Another book event has been confirmed! The launch event for Hand Me Down will be at Copperfield’s bookstore in Petaluma on the day the book officially hits shelves, April 12th. I love Copperfield’s. I’m so excited to have the release event in a fantastic bookstore filled with light and good vibes and employees who really love books. I spend so much money every time I go, I have to limit my visits.

I’ll keep you posted as we get closer. I hope you’ll join me for the event and spend some of your money on good books from a great source, including a signed copy of Hand Me Down fresh off the presses.